Ireland Tour 2019



Saint James and a Harp

July 31, 2019

A few parishioners of the St. James’ family met up with the choir during the tour. These are some thoughts submitted by Sara Jane Thies.

On this day of our patron, Saint James, we are blessed to have been in my motherland Ireland for almost a week. Starting in Dublin, to research more of the family lineage, we enjoyed the EPIC museum before greeting our choir and guests at Saint James’ Bridge gate. Here began my intrigue with the harp.

First viewed at the Guinness Brewery, I learned of the famous Downhill Harp, that dating back to 1702, was purchased by Guinness in 1963 to ensure its continued preservation and is on display in the advertising gallery in Guinness Storehouse. Next encouraged by the sermon of Canon Brew at Christ Church Cathedral, I heard him speak of Jesus as the icon of the image of God and that we are called to be windows into Christ.  My eyes wandered to the stained glass window near where John, Bob Williams, and I were sitting. Voilà ….King David carrying a harp in procession.

Finally on to Trinity College to view The Book of Kells and the library referred to as The Long Room to view the Brian Boru Harp which dates to the 14-15th century.

A harp has appeared on Irish coins since King Henry VIII’s time, and the Brian Boru harp is now the national symbol of Ireland.

Upon our exit from Dublin to the train that would take us to Galway we walked past another St James’ in-the-City.

Ireland and our beloved St James’ in-the-City stirs up music in my soul. Could the music of a harp also enlist your heart on this earthly road as does our lovely choir?

SaraJane Thies

The Choir of Saint James, Canon James Buonemani, Rev. Dr. Kate Cress outside of St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway, Ireland

This submission was written by the Dean for The Choir of Saint James, Adam Noel.

As I write this, it is the eve of the choir’s final time singing together on this tour to Ireland. We will be singing the morning Eucharist service at St. Nicholas Collegiate Church in Galway, which serves as a perfect bookend paired with our first sung Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin a week ago. I find myself reflecting on the week past, our three performances in Tullamore, Cork, and Galway, and the connections that have been made.

As a member of the choir council, I was involved in much of the planning of the tour as well as the anxieties that come with that responsibility. Will all our bookings be correct? Will we sing our best? Am I serving as a good ambassador of St. James? Many other people worked very hard to make this trip happen, and I know I was not alone in those anxieties. But it’s not difficult to look back on those moments where I could let those anxieties melt away. It was in the echoes of a final chord that locked in perfect harmony, ringing through the ancient churches and cathedrals. It was in the smiles of the welcoming locals after we sung a familiar Irish tune. It was in the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean reminding me of how we’re all connected even on other sides of the globe.

I feel so fortunate to have represented St. James in this way. Fortunate to have shared music both ancient and new from all over the world as well as music from Los Angeles, including stunning works by our own Canon James Buonemani. Fortunate to have spoken with appreciative guests of our music. And fortunate to have grown closer as a choir, as a church, and hopefully a global community.

I could never list in one blog post all the amazing and spectacular things I saw and experienced in this beautiful country. Or all the people that need to be thanked to have made this happen. Or the number of times I mispronounced a Gaelic word. So instead I will sign off with a thank you for supporting our journey, and wish you good health. Sláinte mhaith.


Sights, Sounds, and Savories of Galway

July 29, 2019

This article was written by choir member, Kristina Valcarce

This morning the choir left Cork to head to Galway.  I woke up earlier than I expected and enjoyed the delicious breakfast that came with our stay at the Metropole Hotel.  It didn’t take very long to pack up, so I left my bags with the front desk and took advantage of the sunny day to do some last minute exploring around Cork.

I live in a city where a really old building is from the 1920s, so there is something so cool about seeing the modern meet the ancient in Ireland.  A building that once housed St. Peter’s Church is now a museum and cultural center. What looked like a small chapel or old school turns out to be a dental office.  

Soon it was time to board the bus for Galway.  I snagged a window seat and enjoyed watching the endless green pass by.  At one point we passed by a golf course with what looked like ancient castle ruins in the middle of it.  I juxtaposed this image against that of our local Southern California mini golf park that has a bright, cartoonish castle in the center.

Galway is now hosting an International Arts Festival, and we were arriving there on a Friday afternoon, so my roommate and I decided to be proactive and book a table at a restaurant called Dela, which got great reviews on Trip Advisor.  We found some other people who were interested in eating with us, so we booked a fairly early dinner, hoping to beat the rush that was sure to follow later in the evening.  I was hoping we didn’t come across as stereotypical pushy Americans as we filled in the Special Requests section on the form: One diner has Celiac, another is a vegetarian, and yet a third is lactose intolerant.

Our best laid plans seemed to be for naught as we hit terrible traffic on our way into the city.  I began to frantically worry if we were going to miss our reservation, and started imagining a nightmarish scenario in which we wandered the city for hours trying to find someplace to eat during a very busy Festival evening.

As soon as the bus arrived at the Menlo Park Hotel, we raced upstairs to drop off our luggage.  I drew upon my inner New Yorker to do my best power walk to make it to the restaurant.  My roommate had texted the hotel telling them we might be late.  When we finally arrived we found that they had kept our table for us, and when we explained about why we were late, the restaurant staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

All in all, six of us had a wonderful dinner at Dela.  The restaurant prides itself on serving greens that go from plot to plate in minutes, and sources their produce from their organic farm.  The servers were gracious and lovely, and made sure that everyone who had any dietary restrictions had something wonderful to eat.  All in all, it was the perfect respite for we weary travelers, and we were able to shrug off the tedium of traffic with great food and even better company.

Adventure in Kinsale

July 28, 2019

Today’s blog was contributed by choir member, Milena Gligić.

I am in love with the music that I get to sing with St. James’ Choir, particularly the music of Jim Buonemani that I believe should be on everyone’s choral playlist! I feel like every concert that we sing is as much for us as for the audience and that’s the true beauty of music making.

Our last concert before heading out to Galway was at the gorgeous St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, which reminded me so much of Notre Dame in Paris. The cathedral dates from the 7th century, but in the 19th century it was reconstructed in French Gothic style, hence the resemblance, I suppose.

After our performance, Ian, Luisa and myself went through the colorful English Market in Cork, and bought some gourmet chocolates. Then we found a place in a park nearby where we had snacks accompanied by serious, deep and life changing conversations. To top it off, Ian added some lively improvisations on his mandolin, in Irish style, of course. This tour became an opportunity for us all to get to know each other outside of the context of St. James’ in Los Angeles. It has been a truly wonderful experience so far. People are opening up and I feel like we’ll be much closer when we come back to LA.

The most fun part of the day started when the three of us decided to go and explore the town of Kinsale, south of Cork. We got on the bus and an hour later we arrived in this colorful town on the water.

First we went into a nearby gift shop and the Polish lady that worked there was so nice to give us a map and suggest the we should go and check out the Charles Fort. That was a 30min walk, she said, and on the way there, there is a beautiful restaurant with great food. Even though it was gloomy outside and the rain had started to drizzle, that didn’t stop our adventurous spirit and we started our journey.

At some point I jokingly said that maybe we’ll meet a good soul on our way back that would give us a ride and spare us the long walk in the rain. “Ask and it will be given to you.” As we were checking out a possible shortcut on the road, a car stopped next to us, a lady came out and asked what we were looking for. We said that we were going towards the Fort. She told us that it’s already closed, but that there is a nice restaurant on the way there. We said that that’s exactly where we were going and asked how long the walk is. “Maybe 20min”, she said. We thanked her and the man driving the car, and started walking further, but they stopped next to us again and offered us a ride. How wonderful and unexpected (or was it?)! We sat in the back seat and had a few minutes of nice conversation with the true Kinsale locals. They arrived to their destination and sent us on our way further.

This was my favorite moment in Ireland thus far. The overall impression I get from Irish people is that they are warm, genuine, hospitable and willing to go out of their way to help a stranger. I have not yet seen a single person get upset or annoyed and there is no: “you have to” or “you can’t”. I also love their sense of humor, which is, like my own, extremely sarcastic! They love to laugh and make jokes about everything. I feel like I’ve found my land! 

We finally arrived to this beautiful restaurant, Bulman. The view of the sea was wonderful and we decided to go for it and order what our hearts wished for.

After the dinner we stopped by to check out the Charles Fort which, even on the outside walls, turned out magnificent. This is the view at 9:20pm, by the way!

We walked back to the bus stop with our hearts and stomachs full, knowing that this is one of the spontaneous adventures we’ll remember and appreciate for the rest of our lives.

Submitted by Canon James Buonemani, director of The Choir of Saint James.

We are just about halfway through our tour (time indeed flies!) and with three performances under our belt, we are excited about the remaining two, both of which take place in the beautiful coastal town of Galway. So many magical memories are already swirling in mind and here are a few of the most striking:

  • Architecture! Not only of magnificent stone cathedrals but also the amazing “marriage” between these structural wonders and the architecture of the music we make within their walls. Somehow, the two art forms merge together to convey powerful and mystical imagery – food for the soul!
  • Speaking of food – Ireland’s pubs are where the gastronomical delights are! “Pub food” doesn’t normally conjure up fine dining (especially for us Americans), but I think the best seafood chowder I’ve ever had (at the enthusiastic recommendation of Robert Ronus, who discovered the place) was at the “Flying Enterprise Lounge” – not far from St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork!
  • Another delightful surprise, at least for me personally, was being treated to a performance of my Preces and Responses, sung beautifully by the Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buffalo, NY for Evensong at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. It was especially lovely to visit this multi-generational choir of professional men, women and choristers of boys and girls (the littlest of which was about 7 years old!) after their performance – and being treated like a rock star composer. Such fun and joy to see these miniature pieces, originally written for our own Choir of Saint James for their first tour to Westminster Abbey in 1999, take on a life of their own and being enjoyed by so many choirs and congregants across the English-speaking world.
  • Above all else, has been the joy of seeing our choir members and touring party enjoying each other’s company – solidifying friendships and forging new ones, relishing the sights and sounds of this beautiful country and singing their hearts out, mystically joining with voices of souls hundreds of years old in these places of profound history and spiritual awakening. We are one with them and with each other, and that is truly what this journey is about!

An Unexpected Garden in Cork

July 26, 2019

Today’s blog was written by choir member, Megan Malone-Franklin.

After our concert at St. Fin Barr’s Cathedral in Cork today, we visited Blarney Castle & Gardens. About a 25 minute bus ride away, the grounds were absolutely exquisite. We didn’t do any research into the history of the castle or gardens before visiting, which is very uncharacteristic for me… trying to lean into “the music of what happens” as Mother Kate talked about earlier in the week.

We admired the imposing castle from afar (we opted out of kissing the famed Blarney Stone) and spent several hours wandering around the grounds. I was caught off guard by the stunning beauty of the gardens. Lush forest, picturesque creeks, and dozens of shades of green were all around us. 
Although the gardens had a few directional signs here and there and we were given a little (vague) map when we arrived, we felt quite lost much of the time. As someone who loves knowing where I am and how to find the most direct route to where I’m heading, moments of uncertainty like not exactly knowing where I am always bring a chance to practice breathing into the unknown and finding peace in the moment. I was gifted with many such moments today – and magical ones at that.
We stumbled upon breathtaking sight after breathtaking sight. From a hidden waterfall to a luscious garden bursting with 80+ varieties of ferns to a charming fairy glade, it seemed that every curve of the winding paths brought more delights for the eyes and food for the soul.
My favorite sights were in the Rock Close. There was something magical about the ancient rock formations, hidden staircases, and curving paths – all surrounded by glorious greenery. There is something so deeply fulfilling about being outdoors surrounded by beautiful plants. Our contemplative afternoon on was topped off by a light sprinkle of rain which seemed to make all the greenery glow somehow. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to visit this inspiring site, all thanks to the music at St. James’ I’m so lucky to be part of.
Looking forward to what is to come in Galway!

Road to Tullamore

July 24, 2019

Today’s story is contributed by choir member, Lucy Wegner.

Tuesday brought a day trip to Tullamore and a concert at the Church of the Assumption.  After a bus trip through lush countryside, and many cows, we arrived at the church.

The Church of the Assumption is a large modern church, constructed in the 1980s after a massive fire in the old sanctuary. The construction uses local gray stone, with wonderful wood beams inside.

Tullamore is a large town in central Ireland with a population of around 15000. The major claim to fame is Tullamore Dew whisky, which is still produced locally. There is also a local castle with ghosts!

Our concert was part of the Tullamore International Summer Organ Series and we shared the program with Dublin organist David Grealy. As always, the first few notes sung in a new space are exciting as we adjust to the space and sound. The audience was enthusiastic and welcoming, especially for our encore piece, an Irish favorite.

We returned to Dublin for a final night, and continue our travels today to Cork.

First Days in Dublin

July 22, 2019

Our first tour update is from choir member, Gerry Craft.

Approximately 35 singers, several guests and parishioners, and of course our Associate Organist, our Choirmaster, and our Rector were thrilled to arrive in Dublin, Ireland, on Friday, July 19th! Not many of us had visited Ireland before and everybody was looking forward to the experience.
Our Dublin hotel is situated directly across the street from Christ Church Cathedral, a large Gothic/Romanesque building begun around 1030. It is part of the Church of Ireland (which is what the Anglican Church is known as in Ireland). On Saturday evening we had a very smooth rehearsal in the Cathedral’s Chapter House as well as the church itself, in preparation for Sunday morning’s Eucharist service.
You can watch a sneak peak of the morning rehearsal here.
Our music was the Missa Brevis of Jonathan Dove as well as an anthem, Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree by Anthony Piccolo. The Mass contains a very complex organ part, played adeptly by St. James’ associate organist, Dr. Tom Mueller. One funny moment was when Choirmaster Jim Buonemani and Tom figured out where Jim should stand so the camera in the organ loft would pick him up, and we were good!
The Choir was joined by three local singers that our own Dermot Kiernan had recommended to help fill in the ranks and the sound was superb.
Sunday’s service went very well. We were invited after the service down to the Crypt for tea and biscuits (and to browse the adjacent Cathedral Shop!). Our next stop is a concert in Tullamore outside Dublin. More to come!
Hi Everyone,
As a traveler, I’ve always liked to take things easy. On a trip to Paris in my twenties, my best friend and I clashed terribly. She wanted to fill our days with castles and museums, a rigid checklist of must-sees, and I wanted to sit dreamily in cafes, sipping espresso and watching the world go by. Eventually we agreed to go our separate ways each morning and meet for dinner each night to tell each other about our day. Friendship saved. You’ll be glad to know I’ve matured and now I love castles and museums. But most of all, on this choir tour to Ireland, I am looking forward to hearing you, the St. James’ Choir, in the beautiful places we will visit. What more could I want??
And here’s a reminder inspired by a passage from an old Irish story. On our travels, let’s not expect anything too specific. Instead, why not just watch things unfold and listen for the “music of what happens.” Because it will.
I cannot wait to reach Ireland in a few days. And for those of you back in LA, I will be sending prayers and Celtic blessings!
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Choir of St. James Ireland Tour

March 22, 2019

On July 19, Mother Kate and 38 members of our choir will arrive in Dublin, Ireland, for a 10-day singing pilgrimage. With its sacred sites pre-existing Egypt’s pyramids, Ireland’s religious history spans the centuries from before the Druids of the Celts through the foundations of Christianity laid by St. Patrick and evolving to the present day. We invite parishioners and friends to make their own arrangements to intersect any or all of our amazing itinerary destinations. Here is an overview of our itinerary:

July 19 – Arrival in Dublin with accommodations at Jurys Inn Christchurch (central Dublin).

July 21 – Sing 11 AM Holy Eucharist, Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican)

July 23 – Travel to Church of the Assumption in Tullamore to sing a concert at 8 PM.

July 24 – Travel to Cork with accommodations at the Metropole Hotel

July 25 – Concert at 1 PM in St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral

July 26 – Travel to Galway with accommodations at Jurys Inn Galway and the Menlo Park Hotel

July 27 – Concert at 1 PM in St. Nicholas Collegiate Church

July 28 – Sing 11 AM Holy Eucharist, St. Nicholas Collegiate Church (Anglican)

July 29 – Travel to Dublin airport for departures

All are invited to follow the tour “virtually” with daily blog postings. More details to follow. For more information, please visit